Back in those first days of trying to get pregnant (and before a diagnosis of infertility), I joined an online forum for women who were also focusing on charting and timed-intercourse. Overall, the experience there was a good one, with many of the women supporting each other and forming in real life connections.
There was one post, though, that left me with some negative emotions. Written by a participant who was pregnant for her 7th time, she experience sadness and frustration with family following her SIL announcing her first pregnancy. She felt that her in-laws where more excited about her SIL's pregnancy than her own and expressed jealousy over it.
Being someone who was rapidly reaching the year mark, it took a lot to not fire off a short retort verbally slapping her. It shouldn't matter, but more importantly it called into question why she was pregnant for a 7th time as it strongly suggested that pregnancy had become a way for her to find self-worth.
This morning, there was an incident on the bus that brought this memory back. A visibly pregnant woman was actively crying on her phone following her SIL's announcement about her pregnancy. She cried loudly about how the family responded excitedly to the announcement, leaving her to feel like her own pregnancy wasn't as important. Granted, she confessed, her SIL had been trying for years to get pregnant and seemed so sad with her own pregnancy announcement. But she couldn't understand why her in-laws would be over the moon when she her pregnancies weren't as celebrated.
In that moment, a high-schooler turned around and caught this woman's eye. Shaking her head sadly, she said loudly "I'm sorry." Surprised, the woman started to complain but this teenager stopped her.
"I'm sorry that the only way you can feel special is by getting knocked up."
You could have heard a pin-drop in that moment.
There is a competition that isn't talked about among women, which is the competition in procreation. With infertility, we talk about missing out on the firsts we envisioned, such as giving our parents their first grandchildren or having to live through those painful pregnancy announcements. We experience jealousy when family members seamlessly do we torture our bodies to do. It is torturous and hard.
But this flipped jealousy is something no one talks about. That a family may be waiting hopefully for their loved ones living with infertility to announce the news they've been hoping and praying for, resulting in those who do so without issue to feel jealous of that response. Upon reflection, given how much focus corporations and society put on the expectant mother, this isn't a surprise that feeling special would be attached. From weekly updates to gender reveal parties to long debates about birth plans, there is a lot of focus that happens as a baby is gestating. After all, it is a special milestone as one is closing the chapter on one aspect of life and moving to another.
Still, there is a competition that can arise when one doesn't feel welcomed into a family. When there's a need to feel accepted or special. And it's sad because it is so unnecessary if not down-right destructive. To hear stories about those living with infertility being told that they don't know what real love is because they can't conceive, despite breaking themselves by enduring fertility treatments. To hear about jealousy following news that this same couple is finally expecting. To have a couple be subjected to ridicule or disparaging comments because they have closed the door on biological children and are either pursuing adoption or living as a family of two. All of it is based on a foundation of insecurity and malice.
Last week was National Infertility Awareness week, with the theme of #StartAsking. There were many good posts talking about support and why that support is so necessary. After today's incident, I would add that we also need to address this competition, taking the focus away from glorifying pregnancy at all costs and focusing instead on the family, regardless of its size. Just as many preach that we need to put less emphasis on the wedding and more on building and maintaining a marriage, so too should we have a similar focus on family building instead of on pregnancy.
My thoughts all morning have been about that pregnant woman on the bus. How sad she looked masked behind jealousy and anger. And I can't help feeling sad for the baby she is carrying. Because everyone does deserve to be happy in life. But we have to find it within ourselves.